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20 Songs That Sample Classical Music

Last updated on March 14th, 2019

Breaking the barrier between popular chart music and sweeping classical pieces doesn’t sound like the easiest of feats, but a staggering amount of artists have managed to pull it off. Check out our list of 20 songs that sample from or base their melodies on famous pieces of classical music, spanning from the 1960s to 2016. You might be surprised by a few!

1. Old Money – Lana del Rey

This gorgeously sombre song is perfectly matched with the gentle melody of Nino Rota’s ‘Love Song’, drawn from the 1968 version of Romeo & Juliet.

2. Never Forget – Take That

With a booming introduction drawn from Giuseppe Verdi’s ‘Requiem’, this sampling captures the weight of what was (ostensibly) the band’s farewell to its original line-up featuring Robbie Williams.

3. Dangerous – David Guetta (feat. Sam Martin)

An epic fusion of rapid key progression, cascading strings, and the similarly urgent sound of throbbing electropop, this 2014 song samples Ezio Bosso’s Symphony No. 2 ‘Under the Trees’.

4. I Can – Nas

Remember this hit from 2003? Rapping over Beethoven’s ‘Für Elise’, Nas delivers a cautionary and encouraging message to the young people of the world, complete with a pretty comprehensive history lesson at the end.

5. The Globalist – Muse

This 10 minute epic of a song samples Edward Elgar’s ‘Nimrod’. Described by Matt Bellamy as a ‘prog-rock nightmare dealing with the rise and fall of a dictator’, the moving peals of ‘Nimrod’ add to the force of the lyrics’ despair.

6. Alejandro – Lady Gaga

Sampling Vittorio Monti’s ‘Csárdás’, this modern pop classic combines melancholic violin strains with pounding synth. The result is gloriously catchy.

7. Everyone – Backstreet Boys

Did you read ‘Everybody’ the first time around? This lesser-known song from the Backstreet Boys includes a brief sampling of Julius Fučík’s ‘Entrance of the Gladiators’.

8. Like You – Kelis

R&B star Kelis intersperses some very contemporary-sounding lyrics (‘I don’t just like you, I like you like you’) with the operatic vocals of Mozart’s ‘Magic Flute (Queen of the Night Aria)’.

9. Exposition/We Can Work It Out – Deep Purple

Deep Purple blend their hard rock sound with the moody insistence of Beethoven’s ‘Symphony No. 7’, making for one multi-layered Beatles cover.

10. In This Life – Madonna

Drawn from the 1992 album Erotica, Madonna pairs tragic lyrics about the death of a friend with a sampling of George Gershwin’s ‘Prelude No. 2 for Piano’.

11. Sorry – Beyoncé

Beyoncé’s now-famous opening monologue to ‘Sorry’ is accompanied by the tinkling of a musical box version of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake (Suite)’. Although the tone of the song shifts with the introduction of the beat, the delicacy of this preface isn’t forgotten.

12. Dovregubben – Zedd

Try saying that three times fast! Zedd samples Edvard Grieg’s ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’, pushing the song’s progression to its limit to hair-raisingly spectacular effect.

13. Piano & I – Alicia Keys

Another artist to take inspiration from Beethoven, Alicia Keys samples ‘Moonlight Sonata’ in her (mostly spoken) introduction to the Grammy-winning ‘Songs in A Minor’ album.

14. Little Me – Little Mix

The second single from the ‘Salute’ album, this track samples from Gabriel Fauré’s ‘Pavane’ – pushing the gentle melody to its loftiest heights in order to reinforce the song’s inspirational message.

15. I’ll C U When U Get There – Coolio

All the way back from 1997, this hip-hop hit is based on the melody of Johann Pachelbel’s ‘Canon in D Major’. The gentle sound of the strings adds a mellow vibe to the song.

16. Everything’s Gonna Be Alright – Sweetbox

Another throwback from 1997, Sweetbox raps the sad but optimistic lyrics of ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright’ over the delicate strains of Bach’s ‘Air on the G String’.

17. Intergalactic – Beastie Boys

The music video version of this classic Beastie Boys track features an introductory sampling from Igor Stravinsky’s ‘The Rite of Spring’. It’s an epic precursor for what’s to come, starring a giant robot and some kind of similarly huge octopus.

18. Natural – S Club 7

Another song to sample Gabriel Fauré’s ‘Pavane’, we bet you didn’t expect it coming from S Club 7! Nonetheless, this almost twenty-year-old track heavily samples the classical work.

19. All Over The World – Pet Shop Boys

Transforming Tchaikovsky’s ‘March’ from The Nutcracker, The Pet Shop Boys give the piece a synth-pop, extremely dance-able reworking in ‘All Over The World’.

20. The Ecstasy of Gold – Metallica

Last but not least, although it might not be their song we can’t help but mention Metallica’s sampling of Ennio Morricone’s famous composition from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The band has used it to introduce their concerts since 1983, and their own rendition was Grammy-nominated in the category of ‘Best Rock Instrumental Performance’.

So there you have it, 20 of the most iconic fusions of classical pieces and modern-day classics, chart-toppers, and unforgettable live performances. And if you haven’t had your fix of classical music just yet, check out our phenomenal classical musicians for hire to make your wedding, party or corporate event shine!

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